One of my favorite things about California is how diverse its landscape is. Palm Springs is two hours or less from most major Southern California cities, but yet it feels worlds away from the coastal life of San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. Living in OC, we decided to take advantage of the desert being so close-we arrived in the early afternoon and left Sunday morning. It was a quick trip, but we got a solid feel for this glam desert town. I was excited to see ALL the mid-century modern homes and soak in some of that warm desert sun (it was in the low 80s during our visit). Here’s everything we packed into our one day in Palm Springs.
One Day In Palm Springs
We arrived just in time for lunch, and we headed straight to The Sandwich Spot in downtown Palm Springs that is tucked into the back of an outdoor shopping center, away from the bustle of N Palm Canyon Drive. This popular local spot has a large menu of specialty sandwiches featuring cheeky choices like But It’s A Dry Heat (marinated chicken, hot sauce and pepper jack cheese) and The Dirty Weekend (warm roast beef, 1000 island dressing, and cheddar cheese).
The staff were really friendly even though it was incredibly busy (there was a junior cheer leading competition in town) and I would definitely go back for a quick bite. I got the Thanks For The Memories (warm turkey with cranberry sauce) and it hit the spot, except I would make it cold next time. Mustafa got The Bear Necessities (pastrami, roast beef, salami, and cheese), which was delicious as well if you’re craving a meat-centric sandwich. All sandwiches can also be made into salads for those who are gluten free.
After a few hours of downtime at our hotel, we ventured out at dusk and were treated to a beautiful desert sunset as the sun dipped below the snow-capped mountains. After many photos taken from our hotel parking lot, we drove back to downtown Palm Springs to walk around the trendy Arrive Hotel and get some dessert before dinner (because vacation). Arrive hotel is one of the many hip hotels along N Palm Canyon Drive, though it’s situated a bit north up the road making it a little less busy.
The hotel has daily passes for its pool for guests not staying on the property, and I’m definitely going to come back for a dip. The real reason we went was for the Ice Cream Shop(pe), which is a millennial’s dream with the servers called “scooptenders,” and a gift shop with a neon hashtag sign #palmspringsisbetter, Palm Springs totes, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg jewelry trays.
The ice cream had local flavors like Coachella Valley Date, as well as the increasingly popular ube flavor. They also have a good selection of sorbets, which I happily sampled before picking the mango, which was very refreshing. If you want to get fancy they have milkshakes, soda floats, and ice cream sandwiches. Make sure to stop by the free sprinkle bar (I wasn’t kidding about the millennial vibes). They also have daily specials, like Milkshake Monday and Sunday Funday.
In the past decade, Palm Springs has become a food mecca, where you can find anything from trendy brunch spots like Cheeky’s to Vietnamese at the Rooster and the Pig. Some of the restaurants are in popular hotels like King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Norma’s at Parker Palm Springs.
After much research and deliberation on my part we finally settled on a local haunt The Tropicale, that is known for its retro tropics vibe and delicious options of various global cuisine and strong drinks. Walking away from the main downtown area, we started to doubt that we were making the right decision…but the moment we stepped inside, we instantly feel in love with the dim mood lighting and feeling like we had just stepped into a Mad Man-esque restaurant. We were seated right away in a booth and I kid you not I had one of the best cobb salads I’ve had in my life. Mustafa was pretty pleased with his Chopped Vegetables and Goat Cheese Pizza too.
Happy hour is everyday from 4-7pm, and Wednesdays 4-10pm, with small plates and pizza specials.
Afterward, we walked along N Palm Canyon Drive, which was filled with live music from an outdoor bar, before heading back to our hotel.
The next morning we ate breakfast at our hotel, and then went on a little mid-century modern tour of the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood. Our first stop was Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, where The King lived (and honeymooned). Palm Springs has been a quick getaway from LA for many celebrities starting in the 1930s. You can still see the homes of stars in neighborhoods like Old Las Palmas and The Movie Colony.
We wandered around the neighborhood afterward, and even popped into an open house (the best way to have a free tour of one of the historic homes). The weather was ideal being in the low 80s, people were biking around the streets and it was the perfect 24 hours in Palm Springs. We’ll definitely be back!
More Things To Do In Palm Springs
My bucket list for Palm Springs was lengthy and we only got a few things checked off on our one day in Palm Springs, but here’s other things that we’ll have to come back for.
- Bike Tour – I’ve heard only good things about Bike Palm Springs tours of historical neighborhoods, including those Insta-famous mid-century modern doors.
- Moorten Botanical Garden – a family-owned acre of land filled with desert plants and a greenhouse-filled with succulents.
- Indian Canyons – home to the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians, this is one of the most scenic local areas to hike around and explore waterfalls, rock art, and California fan palm trees.
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – not a big fan of heights, but I’m a major fan of aerial views and this rotating tram takes you from the desert to 8,500 feet into the mountains in around 10 minutes.
- Modernism Week (mid-February) – we just missed it by two weeks, but I would love to come back and be able to peek inside different mid-modern century homes.
When To Visit Palm Springs
The best time to visit is November through February, when it’s the off-season and not as hot. March can be crowded for spring break and April is festival season, including star-studded Coachella. May to June is when it starts to heat up and during the summer it reaches into the triple digits. It hardly rains in the desert, but during the winter it can cool down considerably at night. When we were there in early February, it was mid-80s during the day, but then was chilly at night dipping into the 60s, and I’m glad I brought a light jacket and pants.
How To Get To And Around Palm Springs
Palm Springs is about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles or San Diego, and an hour and a half from Orange County. There is also the Palm Springs International Airport, which has daily flights from U.S and Canada destinations, and is served by over 10 different airlines.
A car in Palm Springs definitely makes traveling easier, especially if you want to visit places outside of the downtown area. There are a variety of car rental options at the airport if you are flying into Palm Springs. Some hotels have shuttles that operate within a certain radius, and there are also ride share options like Uber and Lyft for car-free ways to get around. Bike rentals are also a popular way to explore nearby neighborhoods.
Where To Stay In Palm Springs
Knight’s Inn (budget)
This centrally located, remodeled hotel is a 2-minute drive from downtown and is a great choice if you’re looking for a reasonably priced place to stay that doesn’t skimp on amenities or cleanliness. The manager lives on property and is available to assist with any requests that may come up.
Del Marco Hotel (mid-range)
An adult-only hotel that boasts mid-century design and breathtaking views of the San Jacinto Mountains. Centrally located, the hotel is just a block away from downtown Palm Springs. Amenities include complementary cruiser bikes, kitchenettes or full-kitchens, and a saltwater pool. Complementary breakfast and happy hour are also included.
Arrive Hotel (luxury)
This is definitely one of the hip hotels along N Palm Canyon Drive that is worth treating yourself to. On the property there’s a lively pool area, Wexler’s Deli, Cartel Coffee Lab, Draughtsman restaurant/bar, and Ice Cream Shop(pe). Patio rooms come with your own personal firepit and a reserved lounger at the pool.